Cal Tjader – Cal Tjader Goes Latin

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This is the cleanest, quietest original colored vinyl Fantasy pressing I have ever played in my life. To say these are normally beat to death is the understatement of the year.

Even more surprising is the superb saxophone playing of Jose Silva, a tenor man with whom I was not familiar. I thought he was Ben Webster or maybe Coleman Hawkins his tone is so rich and sweet. The tracks that he’s on sound amazing — very full bodied and not a trace of hi-fi-ishness. Overall the sound is a bit muted; a little treble boost would do wonders.

“… the highlights of the album are the four ballads that showcase Guaraldi’s distinctive piano style and the light tone of tenor saxophonist Jose Silva: Howard Arlen’s “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe,” “Out of Nowhere,” “Close Your Eyes,” and the bolero-like “Contigo.” – AMG (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Album – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

AN AMAZING A+++ SIDE TWO, and an excellent A++ SIDE ONE! Finding great copies of this album is no easy task. Many of the copies we played were just too noisy, and most of the quiet ones just weren’t impressive sonically. This one is a HUGE improvement — easily the best copy to emerge from our latest shootout! 

In many ways this is a better album than Album 1700; it’s certainly less commercial. Pack Up Your Sorrows is great here, as is And When I Die, and there are many many more. Top session players on this one too. (more…)

The Recordings of Michel LeGrand – These Are Some that Didn’t Make the Grade

 

These are just some of the Michel LeGrand’s recordings that we’ve auditioned recently and found wanting.

Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame.  

A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

MASTER TAPE SOUND FROM START TO FINISH on this stunning copy of Rod Stewart’s masterpiece! We just finished another massive shootout for this album, and this was the copy that completely knocked us out. It’s an original Mercury pressing that earned an A+++ grade on BOTH sides. You probably had no idea how amazing this album could sound on the right pressing, because most copies out there just don’t do it. Maggie May is KILLER on this one.  

Not too many of our Hot Stamper titles are going to ROCK you the way this one does.

We put it in a class with Led Zep II, Sticky Fingers, Nevermind, and Back In Black — elite company to say the least!

Side one is BIG, punchy, and full of energy — in other words, IT REALLY ROCKS! Very few copies we’ve ever played had the kind of bottom end WHOMP found here — it really takes the music to a whole new level of enjoyment. The bass is tight, meaty, and note-like; you can really follow each note. Overall, the sound is open, rich, and super transparent. And, Rod’s vocals are more PRESENT and textured than ever before. We rate side one A+++ — it’s STELLAR!

Side two is EVERY BIT AS AMAZING! It’s very spacious with more depth to the soundfield; you can really hear INTO the music. The immediacy, richness and clarity of the vocals is off the charts. Drop the needle on Maggie Mae and turn it up; it will be as if Rod was belting out the lyrics right there in your living room, in all his raspy glory! There is BIG TIME ENERGY with WHOMP and an open top end. The acoustic guitars on this side have plenty of pluck and body, just listen to the intro on this side — the guitar is AS GOOD AS IT GETS. Side two rates A+++ as well, making this a VERY remarkable copy.

Nevermind, and then some

I Know I’m Losing You on this album rocks as hard as any album from the period, with DEMO DISC SOUND. If you have BIG DYNAMIC SPEAKERS and the power to drive them to serious listening levels, you will be blown away by the power of this recording.

You know what this album is? It’s the Nirvana Nevermind of the early ’70s. It has that kind of power in the bass and drums.

But it also has beautifully realized acoustic guitars and mandolins, something that virtually no recording for the last twenty years can claim. In that sense it towers over Nevermind, an album I hold in very high esteem. (Heck, I’ve even called it perfect!)

We Love Big Drums!

If you’re a fan of BIG DRUMS, with jump-out-of-the-speakers direct-to-disc sound quality, this is the album for you. The opening track on side one has drums that put to shame 99% of the rock drums ever recorded. The same is true of I Know I’m Losing You on side two. It just doesn’t get any better for rock drumming, musically or sonically.

Some of the best rock bass ever recorded can be found here too — punchy, note-like and solid as a rock. Got big dynamic speakers? A concrete foundation under your listening room? You are going to have a great time playing this one for your audiophile friends who have screens or little box speakers. Once they hear what big well-recorded drums can sound like on speakers designed to move air, they may want to rethink their choices.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Every Picture Tells a Story
Seems Like a Long Time
That’s All Right
Tomorrow Is a Long Time

Side Two

Maggie May
Mandolin Wind
(I Know) I”m Losing You
Reason to Believe

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Without greatly altering his approach, Rod Stewart perfected his blend of hard rock, folk, and blues on his masterpiece, Every Picture Tells a Story. Marginally a harder-rocking album than Gasoline Alley — the Faces blister on the Temptations cover “(I Know I’m) Losing You,” and the acoustic title track goes into hyper-drive with Mick Waller’s primitive drumming — the great triumph of Every Picture Tells a Story lies in its content. Every song on the album, whether it’s a cover or original, is a gem, combining to form a romantic, earthy portrait of a young man joyously celebrating his young life… It’s a beautiful album, one that has the timeless qualities of the best folk, yet one that rocks harder than most pop music — few rock albums are quite this powerful or this rich.

Building a World Class Record Collection… One Customer’s Story

Dear Tom,

I want to thank you once again…

Quite a few years ago now I contacted you and talked about this concept called “hot stampers”…It ended up both saving me a lot of misdirection and foolishly trying to rebuild my vinyl collection with new vinyl re-releases often called “audiophile” and “half-speed” issues.

After a few confirmations of what you said I quickly sold all those copies and began building a real world class collection of vinyl “original” hot stamper level records. A good number cam from your business and I also made a hobby of trying to do what you do in finding “hot stampers”. Fortunately Philadelphia has a reasonable number of used record stores but unfortunately, as you well know, this is a rigorous and costly endeavor…..but it can be rewarding at times and at other times requires that I rely on you.

So today I’m snowed in here so I fired up the rig and decided to do some small scale shoot outs and find the true great copies from my already culled collection. Put on several Hall and Oates and focused on “She’s Gone”… one was just clearly dynamic, clear and present…..then put on several Dire Straits “Love over Gold” and ended up with 3 killer copies (such a good lp).. I then put on about 5 copies of Phil Collins “Face Value” with “If Leaving Me is Hard”….What a great love song….and narrowed it to 2.

Yes my rig is really awesome for close up intimate listening at any level. It is something I have worked on for decades to become resolving, dynamic, harmonic, dimensional, transparent, and involving. I can listen loud and close without distortion. When I suddenly find that “hot stamper” Phil Collins is in the room where I hear his voice articulate and rich with background singers just as good and the band perfectly balanced to his vocal. And it is then I think of your contribution to all of this and want to tell you.

So that is what I am doing. I know what three pluses means…..I can’t afford many of them as I would assume some wealthy customers can but I really appreciate them and their unfortunate rarity….. and I appreciate all the work you have done to make this possible, (more…)

Blondie / Parallel Lines on EMI, Simply Vinyl and Mobile Fidelity – Three Strikes and You’re Out

Sonic Grade: D or worse

EMI and Simply Vinyl both released Heavy Vinyl versions of the album with little sonic success. I remember being underwhelmed by the Simply Vinyl version, the perfect example of the smeary sub-gen sound you get when a record is made from a dub tape. The EMI 180 was brighter and thinner and every bit as wrong in its own way. Choosing among them would have been difficult. The best choice: none of the above. 

As is so often the case, the Heavy Vinyl Reissues are simply a disgrace.

MOBILE FIDELITY

Two words: compressed muck (like most domestic pressings, to be fair).

I became a giant fan of this album the moment I heard it, but I always felt that the sound of my old original left something to be desired. So many copies are thick and lifeless; the music wants to cook but the sound seems to be holding it back.

And like an idiot I’m sure I had traded my original domestic pressing in for the MoFi when it came out in the early ’80s, the kind of dumbass audiophile move I discuss in the commentary Audiophilia 101: What Kind of Fool Was I?

As previously noted, the MoFi, one of those Jack Hunt turgid muckfests (check out City to City #058 for the ultimate in murky MoFi sound), is incapable of conveying anything resembling the kind of clean, clear, oh-so-radio-friendly pop rock sound that Mike Chapman and the band were aiming for.

The recording has copious amounts of Analog Richness and Fullness to start with. Adding more is not an improvement; in fact it’s positively ruinous.

Muddy Waters – Sings Big Bill Broonzy

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  • Waters’ superb 1960 tribute to Big Bill Broonzy makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • We found this title to be exceptionally well recorded, which means this copy has true DEMO DISC QUALITY sound
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Waters’s tribute album to the man who gave him his start on the Chicago circuit, this stuff doesn’t sound much like Broonzy so much as a virtual recasting of his songs into Muddy’s electric Chicago style.”

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Richard & Linda Thompson – Pour Down Like Silver – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

The biggest problems with this record would be obvious to even the casual listener: gritty, spitty vocals; lack of richness; lack of bass; no real space or transparency, etc. etc.

When we came across this copy we knew we had something special as it had very few of the problems above. 

The Carthage pressings did not do well in our shootout, no surprise as these early Island records were mastered at one of our favorite cutting houses here in the Southland. (more…)

Love – Forever Changes

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  • The first copy to hit the site in many years and boy was it worth the wait — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Both of these sides are super clean, clear, smooth, dynamic and musical with a lovely bottom end and lots of space around the musicians
  • It’s incredibly tough to find copies of this title that aren’t trashed; this one is as quiet as they come — Mint Minus Minus on both sides
  • “Forever Changes is inarguably Love’s masterpiece and an album of enduring beauty…” – All Music

Two incredible sides! We had a chance to shootout a handful of copies recently and didn’t hear any other copies that could compete with this Elektra Gold Label Original Pressing. We are HUGE fans of Love and this copy will show you why. Both sides are lively and full-bodied and the bottom end is KILLER throughout. In short, it’s EXACTLY the sound you want for this music. Give it a chance and you’ll hear for yourself!

Compared to some other copies, this one had more impact, more power and more energy. The vocals are full-bodied and rich with excellent presence. Most copies we heard were pretty blurry down low, but you can actually make sense of the bass on this one. (more…)

Record Cleaning Tips – Reverse Osmosis Rinse Water

Rinse Water

We’ve had very good results with reverse osmosis water. It is audibly superior to everything else we’ve tried. We’re not saying it’s the best rinse water on the planet; we’re simply saying it’s the best we’ve heard. For a couple hundred bucks, having a reverse osmosis water system installed in your house will turn out to be money well spent if you are cleaning a large collection.

Aquarium stores sell it by the gallon if you don’t plan on cleaning enough records to justify the expense of installing a unit.

For more advice on record cleaning, see below.

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